Teachers Share Tips for Teaching and Entertaining Kids During Coronavirus

Listen, we know it’s hard right now, so we called in some incredible and creative reinforcements while we shelter-in-place.

Are you tired of filming TikToks and watching Mo Willems doodle? Try these fresh ideas—brought to you straight from local elementary school teachers/everyday superheroes—to enrich and entertain your kids and keep the whole family from going stir-crazy.

KINDERGARTEN

JULIE BUTZ, KINDERGARTEN TEACHER AT ARLINGTON ELEMENTARY IN FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP

My number one suggestion is to read with your children. But to make that reading time into a fun activity, I would recommend creating your own books. You could make up a story with your child and have him or her illustrate it. Or, you could keep it simple and have your child label the pictures or write simple sentences. If your child doesn’t enjoy drawing, use stickers or photographs as illustrations. Just take some paper, staple it together, break out the crayons, pencils, paints or stickers and let your imagination lead the way!

FIRST GRADE

LINDSEY ELLIOTT, FIRST GRADE TEACHER AT ACTON ELEMENTARY IN FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP

First and foremost, read, read, read! Even if you have read all of the books in your house, turn the subtitles on and mute the TV. Kids can read while watching their favorite TV shows!

Science: Have children find an animal they want to know more about on the National Geographic Kids website. Once they choose an animal, have them write down facts about the animal. After writing down facts, they can go on to write a research paper using complete sentences and draw a picture of the animal in its habitat.  

Social Studies: Have children make a detailed map of your house by drawing it out on paper. When finished drawing and labeling the rooms, have them make a key for their map. When all of that is completed, you can ask them questions about their map.

SECOND GRADE

FELICIA HARRISON, SECOND GRADE TEACHER AT LAKESIDE ELEMENTARY IN WARREN TOWNSHIP

I recommend playing ‘school’ with your children to help bring them a sense of normalcy during this time. Let the child be the teacher and let them choose whatever they want to teach, so they get to tell mom and dad what to do! You can practice math skills or make up a word problem, or even do a spelling test. It would be interesting to let them be the PE teacher and lead the gym class, or the science teacher, where they can share a science project they learned. They will be using things they learned in class and reinforcing them, and the children may be missing their school, so this could make them feel a little comforted.

THIRD GRADE

MISSY HERNANDEZ, THIRD GRADE TEACHER AT ST. MALACHY SCHOOL IN BROWNSBURG

One of our favorite things to do in third grade this year was our STEM Fridays, and my favorite challenge we did this year was the Pringle Ring Challenge. The kids loved it, we all laughed A LOT, and I think some groups ate more than they built!

To do it, you just hand your child a can of Pringles and challenge them to build a freestanding ring on a flat surface using only the chips. You can also give them a pencil and paper so they can plan out their design and strategy before they start building.

In order to create the ring, kids should only use complete chips (no broken pieces), because intact chips will ensure that the ring is as strong as possible. Any chips that are broken can be discarded, or better yet, eaten!

FOURTH GRADE

DAHLIA SIRILLA, FOURTH GRADE TEACHER AT SOUTH CREEK ELEMENTARY IN FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP

Throughout the school year, my students did a weekly ‘Think Outside the Box’ activity: I would give them a simple drawing of something, such as a cloud, but I would tell them it was not a cloud. So, they would have to use their creativity and imagination to draw something else. Their creations were unbelievable!

For example, in one exercise I handed out a drawing that resembled a frowning face, and one of my students transformed it into a pig:  

You can easily create your own drawings as a starting point to see what your child comes up with—and for additional enrichment, you can also ask them to write a short story about their artwork when they’ve completed it.

FIFTH GRADE

MICHELLE CALDWELL, FIFTH GRADE ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS (ELA) TEACHER AT STONYBROOK INTERMEDIATE AND MIDDLE SCHOOL IN WARREN TOWNSHIP

During times like this, kids want to feel safe and grounded in the aspect of normalcy. We are definitely far from normal, so I would do a discussion activity linking the five senses. An example of this would be to give your child a scene, for example a baseball park. Have them close their eyes and link what they see, smell, taste, hear, and feel at the park. When they describe these things have them use different adjectives to explain their five senses more deeply. 

They can do an extension of this and write or tell a story using these senses and adjectives they originally shared. Then allow your child to choose a scene and you will link it to your five senses just like they did. Another fun way to retell the story is to draw it while you are explaining it.

SIXTH GRADE

KATIE THURSTON, SIXTH GRADE TEACHER AT RIVERSIDE INTERMEDIATE IN HAMILTON SOUTHEASTERN SCHOOLS 

I think 6th graders would really enjoy doing their own ‘Escape Room’ challenge. You can make cipher puzzles, create a scavenger hunt for clues, do digital puzzles, and so much more. I like to do these challenges in class when we are learning a new topic. The parents can make the challenge for the kids, or vice versa, and if you get stuck on ideas, there are plenty of ideas you can find on the internet.

SPECIAL EDUCATION

AMY DAVIS, SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER AT WEST CLAY ELEMENTARY IN CARMEL CLAY SCHOOLS

You can set up an old school ‘Bozo the Clown’ bucket game in your house: Just get some laundry baskets and line them up one behind the other, and give each basket a point value—50, 100, 150 and 200, for example. Then let each child toss 3 items (like balls, pillows, stuffed animals or rolled up socks) into the baskets to see who gets the highest score.

 

ART

GINGER SMITH, ART TEACHER AT TRADERS POINT CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS IN WHITESTOWN

If you’re looking for a fun, hands-on activity, you can always whip up some salt dough—just be sure to remind little ones (and your pets) that this kind of dough is not edible. It’s very easy to make: All you need is 1 cup of salt, 2 cups of flour and 1 cup of water. Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl, then slowly add in the water, stirring until the dough is smooth and comes together into a ball. Knead the dough for a few minutes and then let it rest for another 20 minutes.

Once the dough has rested, you can transfer it to a floured work surface and let your kids get creative. They can roll it out and draw on it, build it into 3D sculptures like a snowman or their favorite animal, or cut out shapes with cookie cutters. The best part is, if they don’t love what they’ve made, they can just squash it and do it again. 

If they do end up making something they love, they can let it sit out to dry and harden for a day or two. Or, you can bake it in the oven—making sure the child has adult supervision—at 250 degrees until it has hardened and dried, about 3 hours. Once you take it out of the oven, let it cool completely—then you can break out the paint and they can decorate!

MUSIC

JANENE KRENT, ELEMENTARY MUSIC SPECIALIST AT NORTH ELEMENTARY IN NOBLESVILLE SCHOOLS

As we all learn to navigate this difficult time, we know that adolescent children are going to remember the time their parents spent with them. We have the gift of time right now and the opportunity to make memories for our kids, and this activity can get the whole family involved and foster a love of music for all. 

Most elementary music classrooms have shakers, scrapers and drums as instruments, so have the whole family go on a hunt to improvise and find an item that will work for each of these instruments in the house. You could even give each family member a different room in the house to find their instrument. Collect one of each item, bring them all back to the living room, and try them out. Kids will get really creative! 

After everyone has tried out their instruments, pick a favorite and jam out to any genre of music you like on your phone or the radio. Homemade bands are the best—and music can lift your spirits and change your mindset. Enjoy!

Stephanie Groves is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis who is excited to try and make salt dough with her kiddo.